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Business Week Magazine

 

Press Release

April 30, 2001

California Institute for Smart Communities Releases Report on "Ten Steps to Becoming a Smart Community"

"There is nothing magical about the ten steps," said John Eger, President of the California Institute for Smart Communities, a research program of SDSU’s International Center for Communications, "but they help a community organize themselves and importantly underscore the importance of seeing this revolution not so much about technology, but as about reinventing the concept of community and developing a governing mechanism to do so."

A "Smart Community" is a community that has made a conscious effort to use information technology to transform life and work within its region in significant and fundamental, rather than incremental ways.

The ten steps represent an easy-to-follow program based upon ten years of research of what the best communities are doing or need to do to best position themselves for the emerging knowledge-based economy and society.

Following a multi-million dollar effort to understand the role of telecommunications and information technology to the economic and social development of cities, counties and other local and regional government, the Institute has been working with communities in California and worldwide to help them "reinvent" themselves for the digital age.

The steps attached, are also available at (www.smartcommunities.org). For more information, contact Cindy Hicks at 619.594.6933, or email to jeger@smartcommunities.org.


10 Steps to Becoming a Smart Community

1. The "Smart Community Concept" must be well understood.

Becoming a smart community is not so much about technology as it is about understanding the basic shift in the structure of the economy and society. While technology plays a vital role as a catalyst in transforming life and work in this new economy, jobs, dollars and quality of life are the real benefits. In undertaking the task of becoming a smart community, therefore, everyone needs to know this is really a process of "reinventing" community for a new age of information.

2. Ownership of the Smart Community Concept must be broadly communicated.

Because of the devolution of power, or the reverse flow of sovereignty if you will, all individuals and individual communities -- down to and including the smallest neighborhoods, now have the ability to take ownership of this concept to shape their lives, that of their families and their closest neighbors. Policies and programs, therefore, whether developed at the local, state or federal level, must be communicated broadly and well-understood by all stakeholders in order for them to be successful.

3. A New Decision-making Mechanism must be created.

Because power has devolved, every individual must be persuaded, indeed enticed, to change the way life and work take place within their community. The concept must not only be well-understood (2 above) but individuals and individual stakeholders throughout the communities must understand that they will participate in the process. Toward that end, a new decision-making mechanism -- we call it a "collaboratory" -- involving all of the stakeholders, must be established. These stakeholders include businesses large and small, academe at every level from K-12 through the university, non-profit organizations throughout the community and government itself. Such a collaboratory will greatly influence and enhance the ability to create a smart community.

4. The Needs of the Community must be assessed and the community defined.

Geographical boundaries -- cities, towns, villages, states, indeed even nation-states -- are being redefined by the convergence of technology and economics; the technology of telecommunications and computers, and the economics of a global economy. A first step to launching a smart community initiative, therefore, is determining the size and geographic limits of the community. Is it a neighborhood? A city? A larger region of several municipalities? Second, but most important, what are the needs as the stakeholders perceive them? Only by understanding the needs and then developing a sense of priority can a well-rounded smart community initiative be developed.

5. A Vision and Mission Statement must be developed.

Only after understanding the interests and concerns of a community can a broad vision and mission statement be developed. Often, this can be done in one day through a facilitation of key stakeholders and then codification into a one-page vision and mission statement. It is important that after the vision and mission statement is drafted, it be submitted to the city or county and/or other political bodies in the community for ratification. Individual groups such as the Chamber of Commerce, the Economic Development Corporation, and other governing bodies, should be encouraged to comment on and support the vision and mission statement.

6. Specific Goals and Priorities must be established.

After a community develops its vision and mission statement, the next step in the process is to articulate specific goals and priorities. These are best developed and refined by a number of working committees which the collaboratory should establish. The committees should again be inclusive of all the stakeholders. Committees should be given timelines, an understanding of the importance of the mission, and some assistance in developing the tasks before them. While each community may differ, most communities usually organize around functional areas such as health care, education, transportation, law enforcement, government services, economic development, and so forth. It is important to spend some time in defining the committee structure before establishing the committees themselves.

7. A Strategic Plan for the Smart Community Concept needs to be drafted.

At this stage in the process, after a vision and mission statement is created, committees formed, and priorities established, a plan must be put in place to implement the development of:

a) The hard infrastructure to create a broadband system linking every home, school, and institution within the community;

b) Those systems and services that will most benefit the community; and --

c) The agenda for the soft infrastructure -- the laws, rules, regulations that must be changed in order to facilitate the development of both the new infrastructure and information services.

This step is one of the hardest because it requires the collaboratory to synthesize the work of its subcommittees and agree on how best to take these committee recommendations from concept to reality.

8. Responsibilities must be clearly defined and Timelines established.

This is indeed the hardest task because someone or some agency or committee or organization must be assigned the task of implementing the recommendations. It must be clear in assigning the responsibility what the expectations are and those expectations must be set against a firm timeline. At this juncture, it is also important to determine how this plan will be financed. Private/public partnerships and outsourcing may be the best methods for accelerating implementation of the plan. This is the opportunity to bring together private and public interests, to seek collaboration among and between industry, government at several levels, and the community at large.

9. Community Linkages must be made.

The vision of the future must be coordinated with all other elements of the community that affect, and are in turn affected by this fundamental plan. There is, for example, a new "architecture" to be developed that will involve zoning, land use and development; art and culture initiatives to provide a magnet for downtown redevelopment. In addition, information systems being developed by other agencies must be coordinated.

10. Metrics must be established and progress constantly monitored.

After the headlines and the ribbon-cutting, the real work must take place. Some things like development of a new GIS system, or linking the schools and the libraries, or even launching a Request for Proposal to develop a broadband grid, will not take place in a day or a week or even a month. Indeed, the business of creating a smart community is truly a multi-year and ongoing process. Mechanisms must be established to keep the energy and focus and commitment alive.